Is China finally waking up to its pollution crisis?

Expect the global warming issue to blow up again as the Obama Administration gears up to issue new EPA regulations. Conservatives have argued for years now that anything the US does is moot given China’s massive pollution problem. But as Jonathan Cohen points out, China is finally starting to move on these issues, as even hard-core dictators can be affected by choking pollution:

In recent years, the Chinese have imposed fuel mileage and appliance efficiency standards, similar in many respects to those in the U.S. Just this week, officials in Beijing announced that the government would be taking another 5 million aging cars off the nation’s road. China has also set up pilot versions of tradable pollution permits—in other words, “cap-and-trade” schemes—for various industries. Officials say they hope to make these nationwide soon. And one reason the Chinese government was so eager to sign that massive new deal with Russia, allowing the import of natural gas, was because it’s desperate to find alternatives to coal. “For a long time, opponents [of new regulations] said we’ll get hoodwinked, because China won’t do anything,” says David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s just not true.”

This is a positive development, and hopefully it continues. If China gets more serious about this, then it can give political cover to those around the world trying to put a lid on carbon emissions.

Cohen points out that any new EPA regulations can put further pressure on China to act.

Expect to hear plenty of noise about this over the coming months.


Chinese citizens are sick of pollution

China’s growth has been impressive, but until now things like pollution and dissent have not been roadblocks to growth. The Chinese government has done as it pleased with little resistance.

Those days might be over, as BusinessWeek reports.

China has some of the most polluted cities in the world, a consequence of the country’s rapid economic development. More than 320 million people in China drink unsafe water, according to Greenpeace China. The country’s Environmental Protection Administration considers 45% of the rivers and waterways it monitors to be unsuitable for human contact, says Greenpeace.

Now, after years of silent suffering from the effects of filthy air and dirty water, many Chinese are saying they’ve had enough. And in some cases, their protests are turning violent.

This may be one of the issues that cracks the Chinese government’s grip on power. The situation in China is dire, and the people are awakening to the seriousness of the problem. This is good for China and the rest of the world.

As reported earlier, the Chinese are making huge investments in wind and solar, and this poses a threat to the US from a manufacturing point of view, but naturally these investments are a positive step for the entire world and the green economy. But this isn’t enough to address the pollution crisis in China. China needs to enact and enforce real regulations preventing companies from polluting the environment. They need to change the manufacturing culture. Until that happens, they will be facing ever-increasing protests and possible social unrest that can destabilize the regime.


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